The 76ers - Hawks game was the largest playoff comeback in Hawks history, the largest playoff blown lead in 76ers history, and the 4th biggest playoff comeback ever. While his legs were under him, Joel Embiid was amazing - 37/13/5, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 12-20 from the field, 2-4 for three, and 11-13 from the charity stripe. This loss is not on Embiid.
But, the two free throws he missed were at the end of the game, and they sealed a heartbreaking loss for the 76ers. In the entire second half, only Embiid and Curry scored field goals. It was a meltdown of epic proportions. If you're looking for Embiid's comments after the game, you can stop - there are none. While it's understandable Embiid didn't feel like it, Charles Barkley called him out for it. We all have to do stuff we don't feel like, and that responsibility is greater for max players.
Chuck: I think he's a great player and a good kid. I don't like it when players don't talk to the press. If you have a great game, you run to the microphone. I don't like players in any sport...
Shaq: Did you always talk to the press?
Chuck: Always. Always. That's part of the job. They're not paying you $35 million just to play basketball.
Shaq: I never saw in my contract I got to talk to the press.
Chuck: The reason those guys are making that money is because TNT and ESPN, we're paying them a lot of money. I'm not mad, I'm disappointed. You don't get to talk to the press just when you win.
Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal, Inside the NBA
Shaq was honest and took Embiid's side, admitting he did the same thing in his career. O'Neal went on to say, "you don't have to, you're obligated to," which is unfortunate because the Oxford dictionary defines an obligation as "the state of being forced to do something because it is your duty, or because of a law, etc." Shaq had so much power and influence that even if he failed to honor certain obligations, he wouldn't get in trouble, but on this, he is 100% wrong.
Earlier this year, we saw Kyrie Irving not talk to the media because he "do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more." After giving him too much slack, to begin with, the NBA eventually fined Kyrie and the Nets $35,000 each for "violating the NBA's media access rules." The rule is simple - the NBA requires that healthy players be made available upon request to reporters before or after every game.
Barkley is right. True leadership and character are shown when it gets tough. It's easy to lead when everything's going your way. One of the main problems the Clippers had last year was the fact Paul George and particularly Kawhi Leonard wouldn't talk to the media after bad games, so other players had to do it. When you're the max guy on the team, it's expected that you carry that burden. As Chuck said, you don't get $35 million just to play basketball.
This is yet another bad symptom of player empowerment. In many aspects of the game, players are doing only what they feel like and not what's expected. I guess they have the power to define what's expected - or at least they think they do. The TV ratings say something else, but it seems decision-makers in the NBA League Office don't care.
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